What happened

Shares of Ralph Lauren (NYSE:RL) are down again today as investors an analysts grapple with the potential implications of a virus pandemic reaching the United States. 

As of 1:46 p.m. EDT, Ralph Lauren's shares were down 8% from Tuesday's closing price. 

So what

To some extent, investors have seen this coming. Ralph Lauren warned in February that it expected virus-related disruptions and store closings in Asia to cost it $55 million to $70 million in revenue in the quarter that will end on March 31. 

A close-up of the Ralph Lauren sign on the outside of the company's store in Paris.

Image source: Ralph Lauren.

But now, investors who have been watching the epidemics unfold in places like China, South Korea, and Italy are trying to grasp the implications of a similar scenario in the United States, which now seems likely.

Those implications aren't trivial. Ralph Lauren has over 200 stores in North America that could be forced to close for a period of time, and its products are sold through hundreds of other retailers' locations. Any scenario that keeps Americans home, depressing retail foot traffic -- or that shuts down stores altogether for a time -- will likely hit the company's top and bottom lines hard.

Now what

Ralph Lauren has promised to update its guidance when it reports its fiscal fourth-quarter and full-year results, in May. But it's looking increasingly likely that the pandemic could have significant effects on the company's business in the United States before then. 

This article represents the opinion of the writer, who may disagree with the “official” recommendation position of a Motley Fool premium advisory service. We’re motley! Questioning an investing thesis -- even one of our own -- helps us all think critically about investing and make decisions that help us become smarter, happier, and richer.